Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Copyright law

From the two figures above, the similarities and differences between the two scores can be figured out easily. The phrase for the bass guitar in Ice Ice Baby has an octave difference from the phrase in Under Pressure and, in Ice Ice Baby , there is an extra note at the end of the first and third bars. The case was finally settled by two parties, with Vanilla Ice paying an undisclosed sum of money to David Bowie. This is a good example of the abuse of copyright law. The Berne Convention states that rearrangement of music is allowed and will be considered original work. Rearrangement of music is the change in composition and reconceptualization of the original work. This includes adjusting the phrase, the key and the structure of the music while the general feel and concept of the music can be retained. The bass guitar part acts as an important part in both Ice Ice Baby and Under Pressure . However, other parts, for example, the vocal part, are entirely different. Hence. Ice Ice Baby should be considered as a rearrangement of Under Pressure . The case against Vanilla Ice should not have succeeded and he should not have settled as he should have won. In fact, the effort and creativity shown in the piece are different enough that it should be well respected as an original piece of work and that is something that should be encouraged.

This controversy does not solely occur in the music industry, but even affects the political development of a country as well. ‘Hope’ by the street artist, Shepard Fairey, is a portrait of Barack Obama done in a stencil style using a digital photograph. 16 The image was used in the 2008 US presidential campaign and sold as a poster by the campaign organizers. Shepard Fairey was sued for infringing the copyright of the Associated Press. 17 The case focused on whether his use of the photograph fell into the category of ‘ fair use ’ and whether the copyright of the Claimant was infringed. ‘ Fair use ’ is a legal

Figure 3: A solo shot of Barack Obama and the ‘Hope’ poster

doctrine used in the United States to allow the use of copyright-protected work under certain circumstances, including news reporting, research and criticism. 18 It can also be compared to the ‘ Exception to Copyright ’ section of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988, where both sections were designed to balance the interest of copyright holders and the public interest. The suit lasted for 2 years and was eventually settled by the two parties. The compensation and financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed but the two parties agreed to ‘ share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs ’ . 17 However, in my opinion Shepard Fairey should have won the suit. In accordance with Article 2(3) of the Berne Convention, a new artistic work based on another image is ‘ protected as original works without prejudice to the copyright in the original work ’, as it is an ‘ ... 16 Art Institute Chicago. (2008). ‘Barack Obama ‘ Hope ’ Poster’. Available at: (Accessed: 20 February 2022). 17 Kravets, D. (2011) ‘Associated Press Settles Copyright Lawsuit Against Obama 'Hope' Artist’. WIRED, 12 January. Available at: (Accessed: 18 February 2022). 18 U.S. Copyright Office (2021). ‘More Information on Fair Use’. Available at: use/more-info.html (Accessed 20 February 2022).


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